To say that the Natchitoches Parish School Board Meeting held March 3rd was well attended would be an understatement. People spilled out of the meeting room into the hallway. Everyone wanted to hear how the board would vote on the written request from School Board Superintendent Dale Skinner for a two-year contract extension.
After a report on how well Goldonna has done this past year, Skinner took an opportunity to say that it was his job to improve test scores and to make it possible for every student to get the best education possible and that this is what he has done. His statement was backed by the fact that the Parish received a performance score of 81.4, showing a growth of 4.2 points for the year. 93 percent of Parish schools maintained or improved their letter grade standing.
The Board moved quickly through other items on the Agenda bringing them to the highly anticipated vote on Skinner. President Ralph Wilson then gave the floor to the people who came to speak on the extension.
First up was Randy Stelly who said, “I am here as a black man representing my community.” He proceeded to condemn Skinner and Wilson promising to lead a movement to have Wilson recalled if the extension was passed.
“You’re not up to go for the white kids or the red kids you’re supposed to be for the black kids, too,” said parent Jewel Philips. “We have been under the thumb of Mr. Skinner for long enough.” She continued to speak about how Skinner has had kids and parents arrested when they have problems at school and try to talk to him. Philips continued, “As a black parent representing many black parents who are too scared to stand up and say ‘get him out,’ I am saying it is time to move on to someone else.”
A number of school administrators came forward to endorse Skinner by giving reviews on progress including Bill Gordy, Brooke Williams, Edwin Mason and Christopher Sylvie. They all backed Skinner’s extension with facts showing improvement in their respective schools.
Once everyone who wanted to speak in the audience had their turn, the board members then criticized or supported Skinner. Board Member Harry Graham called Skinner a bully, stating “He is not good for black people in Natchitoches Parish” and alluded to him being two-faced. Board Member Steven Harris said the atmosphere of fear Skinner creates causes disloyalty. Board Member Michael Hilton said Skinner has the temperament for this position and that it doesn’t matter who is sitting in that chair, that there will be a group of people who doesn’t like him.
Skinner responded to criticism by saying “I really resent anybody saying that I don’t treat black kids equal to white kids. If everyone cared about the kids as much as I care about the kids, we wouldn’t have the problems we do in Natchitoches Parish.” He also commented that he has had people arrested when they cursed at him and went “above and beyond” but that he has an open door policy for anyone who would like to have a civil conversation.
At the end of the long, racially charged discussion, the vote was six yes, four no, with one abstention.
Eugean Garner: yes
Carroll Daniels: yes
Joella Wilson: no
Harry Graham: no
Russell Danzy: yes
Michael Hilton: yes
Emile Metoyer: no
Steven Harris: no
Thomas Melder: yes
Altorio Holden: abstained
Ralph Wilson: yes